Psychotherapy, supervision & training Ranelagh


Self Care & Optimism for the New Year -2018

It’s a new year and with it new opportunities . For many of us we are still in recovery from Christmas festivities and of course all the build-up and anticipation. It feels like we have to “come down” from the energy of this holiday period and re-evaluate and focus on what’s ahead and what we’d like to create for ourselves in the new year. Will we want to get fitter and get involved in doing more exercise, learn something new or change our life in some other way? Whilst generally I am averse to this idea that we have to /  should  make New Year Resolutions, I do think it is a good opportunity to take stock and in a gentle and supportive way re-evaluate how we are doing and what we’d like to introduce into our lives.


I  have a few ideas for myself but know it will take time to integrate the changes into my already busy schedule. This doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing, just that it’s important to give ourselves time and be patient. Many people I know are joining the gym and wanting to get fit again. But remember also it’s a slow time of year, the days are still very short, its cold and our bodies are not at their most vital!  Perhaps also we need to pay attention to our bodies and tune in to what they might need. They may be inviting us to rest more, to eat more nourishing foods or to  do some slow gentle exercise.


Also it’s a time when we are bombarded with negative news, whether it be about Trump, hospital over-crowding, or the aggressive  Australia flu virus etc. How do we cope with all this negative news? One option is that we de-sensitise ourselves and not feel anything at all  but if we were to “digest” the continual barrage of negative news  we would probably feel depressed and overwhelmed. The continual negative news exposure can also make us  fearful, fearful  that something will happen to us, our families or maybe even that the  world is going to finally end ! However, we could also just switch off from the negative news and decide instead to  manage our exposure and make more positive choices such as listening to music, or podcasts and  getting our news from more balanced sources.   And of course there are positive news stories and good things are happening –they are just not making the news headlines.


I was listening to a podcast recently about world changes and in particular  climate change which suggested that  whilst these difficult issues are real , we need to choose how to respond and to do what we can within our sphere of influence. We can create  more good news for ourselves, our families and communities and give the best of ourselves whether in work or in our personal lives. Not always easy –but worth aiming for !






Stress and Wellness in the workplace -employers responsibilities ?

At last weeks  seminar in Openminds Centre, Dun Laoghaire, I presented an introductory  workshop for HR professionals and employers on the  theme   mental health and wellness in the workplace. Often wellness is seen as an extra, an added luxury, something that might be accessed for employees if there is any money left in the budget. Its generally not considered to be  a core aspect of training in workplaces. However, in my view,  it really can no longer  be seen as a luxury and whilst managing stress, promoting wellness and mindfulness have become cliched, we must not dismiss them but perhaps consider that employee wellness is the key to a successful and engaged work force. If our staff are managing their stress, keeping a good work/life balance they will be more engaged, happier at their work and less likely to be taking sick leave.


I also described how some stress can be helpful to get us motivated but that factors such as the level of stress and how long we are exposed to it are important in terms of its effect. The example of holding  glass in our hands was used. This is in itself is easy, but if we are asked to hold the full glass for an extended period of time, then we start to feel the effects! This is what can happen if we experience stress and not get the support we need, we get tired.  I  also referenced a recent TED talk by Kelly Mc Gonigal on “Making Stress your friend”. Mc Gonigal referred to a recent study which highlighted  that how we feel about our stress is important and that if we have a positive view, its less likely to have a negative impact on our health.  This concurs with the theory that  how we believe something to be impacts the actual experience.

The area of  employer liability for “psychological injuries” is an increasingly important area and Marguerite Bolger SC presented a paper at a recent legal conference in Dublin entitled “Stress induced psychological injuries in the workplace:when is the employer liable?”  In the paper, she notes  that stress at work, bullying and harassment  claims are a busy area of litigation and that  claims have increased dramatically over the past ten years. She said many of these cases have been unsuccessful as the court have rejected the facts and there hasn’t been sufficient evidence. However, she warned that liability can and will arise in a bullying at work situation if an employer fails to deal with a situation of which they have been made aware.  She advises that court is not the appropriate forum to have  sensitive issues of bullying or psychological injury addressed and  that legislation is not sufficiently developed at this point.  One implication of this is that if an employer addresses mental health and wellness in the workplace and provides support for staff this will assist staff in getting the support they need and there will be less need for litigation and in any event the employer will have demonstrated that they have  made efforts to support the employees.



The Future of Work is Human -Annual CIPD HR conference


“The Future of Work is Human” This was the title of the morning session at the annual CIPD (Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development ) conference in Croke Park conference centre, Dublin last week. There were some encouraging views and ideas around the need for a more person centred view of relationships in the workplace. Equality, inclusion and recognition were proposed as the way forward and no longer can employers see wellness for staff as an occasional lunch time talk or indeed walk. Instead we were told that companies need to prioritise their staff and their wellbeing and incorporate a more person / employee centred approach to work relationships.
Peter Cheese CEO of CIPD spoke about stress being the biggest cause of absenteeism in the workplace and that well-being in the workplace now has to be a priority! Good to hear and also specifically that in his view the other priorities, obviously linked to wellness are concerned with equality and opportunity, meaning and purpose and utilisation of skills and talents. That its important to employers that their employees are feeling in alignment with their company ‘s values and that they are happy at what they do.
This is why I thought the idea that the “Future of work is human” is a progressive and relevant one. If companies and large organisation can hold and implement this philosophy we will have a happier, more effective and connected workforce. If employees are feeling connected to themselves, feeling better about themselves in their work, they are going to be more connected to their job and to their colleagues -so its “win-win” .

Mr Cheese approach to “rules” was also refreshing, he proposed that regulation in the workplace ideally should be more about principles rather than rules; rules can take people away from being accountable and standing over their actions. If we act solely according to rules, we can tend to disassociate from taking responsibility for our actions. I am sure we all have encountered people who adhere rigidly to rules rather than stand over and be accountable for their actions.

As a psychotherapist and Employee assistance counsellor I was once again reassured about the emerging and developing need people skills in the workplace and that well being in its broadest sense needs to be ensured . That its not just stress management or building resilience but about employee engagement, building trust, good communication and flexible working hours.

My own list of ideas for improved well being in the workplace would include:

Engaging employees and identifying their strengths and talents.

Ensuring the employee’s views are heard and that there is good communication in the workplace.

Employees are encouraged and supported in having a good work /life balance

Well being is prioritised and the work setting has built in mindfulness classes, talks etc

Physical environments need to be attended to-open plan offices aren’t always conducive to effective working -have “break out ” rooms and other spaces to work.

As we become clearer that work is about people first and foremost then we can prioritise employees and their needs.

One comment I heard from a HR manager at the conference was that “Isn’t it amazing that we are talking about all of this, a few years ago it was all about job descriptions and performance measures”


Our personal lives now increasingly overlap with our professional lives ….

In the late 60’s & 70’s the rallying slogan of the student movement and feminists was that the “personal is political”. There was an awareness that our personal experience and behaviours were connected to larger social and political structures. It was recognised that what happens in our lives and the choices we make at a personal level are also political and that we can influence through our personal choices. Politics wasn’t just something that happens at a distant level behind closed doors . This was an important realisation and empowering to realise we all have a part to play and we don’t necessarily need to join a political party to make a difference.

Now, as I do workshops and seminars in companies and organisations and I am often struck by the overlap between the personal and the professional lives of employees. It appears that the current slogan could be that “the personal is professional” as the distinction between our working lives and personal lives becomes increasingly blurred! Is this the path we wish to take with our working lives?

Many of us are checking our work e-mails in the evenings, at weekends and first thing in the morning ! We know this isn’t good but we don’t want to miss out, there may be something important and many of us think if we don’t keep on top of e-mails they will build up and make us stressed more! And somehow there is an expectation that e-mails should be responded to quickly; faster communication has speeded us all up!

Aside from e-mails there are many other ways our work life infringes or overlaps with our personal lives. Some companies have in-house, gyms, pharmacies, restaurants, physiotherapists, doctors etc. The list goes on and generally this is seen as very employee friendly in that all our needs are being attended to. Some well known companies I understand provide doughnuts and juices and hide the “bad stuff” so as they give us choice but steer us towards what’s good for us. How caring is that! However, the negative aspect of this is that it further blurs the distinction between our personal lives and our working lives.

In some organisations, employees can take as much holidays as they like and the outcome of this seems to be that many employees aren’t utilising this as they don’t want to be seen taking time off. Similarily flexible working hours means employers actually benefit as they get more productivity as people work harder.

So what is the solution as the personal and professional now merge?

Some suggestions I recommend from my experience is:

1) Find ways to ensure staff do take holidays and lunch breaks and that they turn off the e-mails at particular times. This approach needs to be supported by employers as people are tending to give too much to their employers and then getting burned out!

2)Have an e-mail policy around usage out of hours

3) Provide opportunities for employees to consider their personal wellness and incorporate mindfulness opportunities and general staff wellness inputs

4) Be aware of the time we spend in work and seek to ensure that we fence off time for non-work activity and spend time with our families and friends and have fun!

5) Practice switching off !

6) Have a look at the recent You tube video which is trending which gives an insight into the difficulties of Professor Robert Kelly giving a BBC interview from his home -not ideal-but very funny!


Establishing and Growing a Thriving Therapy Practice

Six-Day Practice Development Workshop Series

Venue: IAHIP Premises, Dun Laoghaire, Dublin

Dates: 2017: 11th March, 8th April, 27th May, 16th September, 21st October, 25th November

Max.: 15 Participants






As professional carers we have learnt the skills of helping our clients but often to the neglect of the skills of making a living, running a successful business and adapting our business to suit our requirements and expectations. Whether in the early stages of your career or already practicing, establishing a private practice and running a successful and thriving business requires a process of education and skill development to make it happen.

This knowledge and experience is generally not acquired in therapy school. What we want and need from our practice changes over time. As we grow and develop in our work, our approach changes, the kind of work we desire changes as may our financial needs.

This course provides therapists with the opportunity to address these issues in a supportive, creative and practical way so as to move their practices forward in the direction they choose. Participants will be given support to identify their strengths, hopes and desires and the practical ways to weave and embed these into their practices.

Who is it For? You may be recently or nearly qualified, and be thinking about starting your own practice. Or you may already have a practice and be taking stock of where you are and thinking of developing it in a different way.

The course aims to support practitioners at every stage of professional development. This six module course will provide an opportunity for you to consider your practice, how you would like to develop it and start to implement the steps you need to take.

Course Objective

At the end of the course participants will:

1) Have a clear idea of the practice they wish to create for themselves

2) Be aware of the steps they need to take to achieve this and have begun the process

3) Have identified and learnt the skills required to achieve their goals.

4) Become aware of their own obstacles to their growth and how to address them

Course Format

The course will be held over 6 Saturdays on the following dates in 2017

: 11th March, 8th April, 27th May, 16th September, 21st October and 25th November

Venue: IAHIP Premises, Dun Laoghaire, Dublin

Time: 10.00am to 4.30pm daily

Over 6 Modules the course will consider the Six Pillars of a Successful Therapy Practice from the book “This Business of Therapy: A Practical Guide to Starting, Establishing and Sustaining a Therapy Practice” by Jude Fay.

Module 1: Setting up /re-­‐evaluating & upgrading your practice and taking ownership A look at the basic steps in starting up or re-­‐evaluating your practice and the issues of commitment and purpose.

Module 2: Knowing your own vision of your practice Identifying your vision for your practice, who you are as a practitioner and beginning to formulate a business plan

Module 3: Growing your practice Marketing your services to ensure a steady flow of the clients you wish to attract and to create a thriving practice .

Module 4: Managing and Minding your practice Processes and structure to ensure the smooth running of the business, safeguarding the practice and managing risk.

Module 5: Valuing your practice Practical and psychological issues around money, self worth, satisfaction and reward and willingness to receive.

Module 6: Integration and Follow Through Supporting the integration of the previous modules, planning for the future and identifying individual action plans.

Each module will build on the work of the previous one, and will involve both theoretical presentation and discussion, and practical and experiential exercises to explore and support participant’s personal process. The tutors will set homework tasks to support ongoing learning and integration.

A book list is provided and each attendee will receive a copy of the course handbook: “This Business of Therapy: A Practical Guide to Starting, Developing and Sustaining a Therapy Practice.”

Cost of Six-­‐day Practice Development Series: € 625

Payment choices : 1) Early bird rate payable in full by Feb 15th €550. 2) Payment in full -­‐ €625 on booking 3) Payment can be made in 3 instalments of €225 euro each -­‐first on booking, second on 19th May, and final payment must be received by 16th September.

Instalments can be made by direct debit or post-­‐dated cheques. Booking: series for details or phone Monica at 086 6061015.


Jude Fay is the author of the recently published “This Business of Therapy” and is a practicing counsellor and psychotherapist in Co Kildare. Her background as a Chartered Accountant and trainer has led her to supporting therapists in developing and managing their practices. Her work embraces the practical, emotional and psychological aspects of self-­‐employed therapy practice. Jude is a firm believer in the philosophy that helping clients is not inconsistent with making a living!

Monica Haughey has a background in social work and subsequently trained as a psychotherapist and supervisor. She maintains her own private practice and in the past five years has provided training and consultancy for organizations working in the area of workplace wellness and enjoys transferring her experience as a psychotherapist and counsellor to the corporate world. Monica is the published author of two cookery books. Her approach is creative and positive and she supports people beyond their current horizons.

Trump and Brexit -what next? Lets move closer to what we do want ?


I hear a lot of talk of despair and fear about the outcome of these recent voting outcomes. Trump has been elected as the next US president and Britain is now preparing to leave the European union. Naturally, many of us  feel shocked and outraged and can easily feel despair about the direction of the world and how people are voting . The general view does seem to be that these results show people want change but the people or approach they are voting for, isn’t necessarily going to bring them what they want. Trump may wish to ditch the previous governments pledges and achievements around climate change, he may take a very hard line on immigration and has shown that he is racist, anti women and anyone from the LGBT community.

We wonder what will happen to illegal Irish people and whether  they will be sent home, and will he and Putin create more wars and kill more people ? There are various commentators writing extensively about what could happen under his regime. And of course,  we don’t really know  but while we may feel fear and shock what can we do?

I believe that whilst we can’t deny the shadows and presence of evil in the world we need to seek out and be part of all the good and wholesome things that are happening. The day we heard about Trump, I also got an e-mail about a Kindness workshop being held locally and another about a mindfulness training. I hadn’t heard about a kindness workshop before, but noted it was a timely e-mail. I also note that  lots of people are posting beautiful pictures from nature that they are coming across every day. I have seen many wonderful images of the recent  new moon and super moon on social media. These facets of life are also true. I also get very frequent mailings from Avaaz and more recently and various organisations seeking  signatures around various different campaigns which are all about human rights, animal rights, saving the bees  and generally inviting people to sign up for positive change.

We can all contribute to a better more equal society where people and the environment are given priority. Whilst we may not want to go into politics, the first step  may be how we treat ourselves and each other. We would be kinder to the environment if were kinder to ourselves. If we could practice treating each other well things would be better. This may seem a simplistic solution and I am not offering a solution, I am just looking to see how we can contribute in a positive way.

Getting  worried or negative does  I believe attract more of the same and we need to imagine and keep imagining  what we want to create and seek out the positives and good news stories. As we know, the media don’t find good news stories newsworthy and would instead prefer to play you our fears and worries.

There are good news stories such as the recent Austrian election and also the success of the Dakota pipeline campaign, where many people and especially the local indigeneous people came together to protest in a non violent way against this pipeline..and they won this stage anyhow.

I was in Dublin city centre last week getting money out of bank link and I noticed there was a young Romanian woman begging beside me. I carried on doing what I was doing, but noticed there was another woman with her hand on her shoulder. At first glance I thought maybe she was helping her and maybe worked with one of the charities helping homeless people. However, it turned out she was pushing her and demanding she move. The Romanian lady began to cry out and I spoke to the Irish woman and asked what she was doing. She looked aggressively back and before I knew it a man had sidled beside me to support me. He then said you are assaulting that woman and as she went to respond I had 5 or 6 young men move over from the pub across the road, again to offer support to us and the young woman. The men had been standing smoking outside and heard the exchange. Finally the Irish lady moved on whilst grumbling that we were only “Bleeding heart Liberals !

I took this as a compliment but also felt very heartened about this expression of solidarity for this young homeless woman . Are we all becoming more ready to stand up for what we really believe in-now that we know what we don’t want!




Nuala -Supervisee

Monica as a Supervisor provided a simulating respectful and supportive environment in which we together explored the client work. When the work was difficult she enabled me to find a fresh way of looking my approach. This was often achieved by a good – humoured challenge! Her positive energy and easy manner facilitate a relaxed supervision atmosphere.

Open Plan Offices – Need A Plan ?


In my work with both companies and individuals over the past few years, the issue of open plan offices has arisen frequently in the conversations. Mostly, people have told me how they are difficult places to work in. A quick google search on the possible merits of this style of office concern themselves with the very practical point that it is a more efficient use of space and that more people can be accommodated in this manner rather than in separate offices. There is also mention of the possiblity of increased connection between people and that it allows for more collaboration.

However, the down side is that it doesn’t suit everyone and that it can stymie productivity and creativity and be quite uncomfortable for some people. One man in his late 50’s told me how he had really enjoyed his work all his life and he had progressed through his career to finally merit  an office of his own. He clearly was a highly motivated and hard working individual who worked well in the privacy of his own office. Now, he was being moved and he felt he really couldn’t cope with an open plan office and having people sit next to him or across from him. He had no idea how he’d get anything done and was thinking of leaving or retiring early to cope with this change and he certainly needed help!
In my recent work with one Irish company that have invested quite a significant financial resources into open plan offices, yet it appeared that this was to the regret of a significant proportion of  staff members; I did some work to faciliate them getting the best out of this new arrangement.

The approach  I worked with was:

1)Support staff to acknowledge and recognise there are issues.

Firstly to identify that this arrangement may not suit everyone and that some will find it threatening and  not conducive to getting anything done. However, if you’re new to a job or ambitious in terms of your career it may not be strategic to air your grievances about the work setting. It can be such a relief to have a problem aired and realise you are not the only one finding something difficult.

2) Get specific about the particular issues for this team?

The issues are generally both practical as well as  psychological and emotional.

Background Noise/Distractions

The practical issues  are often around the difficulties in concentrating with other noises and voices and general distractions in the background. It can be helpful to have these aired and support the group to come up with their own solutions. Some of these solutions have been to utilise break out rooms when the office is noisy or when a delicate or difficult telephone call needs to be made that requires careful attention.  One staff member excitedly  proposed that in future her was going to wear headphones at his desk to both answer calls but also to block out background noise. It is important that staff are supported to feel free to do what they need to manage the environment and that their colleagues and managers understand this.

Public Access

Some open plan offices are open to the public and whilst this can be very customer friendly, it can mean that it can be very difficult to be productive if customers are walking in and wanting to have a discussion there and then. It can be useful for employees to discuss this and decide how to handle this in their particular office . Some proposed that they take it in turns to attend customers rather than leave it to whoever has the friendliest face! Others that they use the “break-out” rooms when needing to attend to a particular task requiring concentrated effort.



Individual issues

Some of the psychological / emotional issues I have heard often are that people can feel  that they are being both observed and perhaps monitored by peers or others who are more senior to them. This feeling may not actually be accurate but nevertheless this can be the subjective experience of some staff. This may provoke feelings of inadequacy, that they are being judged or indeed that people realise that really they are not very good at what they do. This has been well documented elsewhere as the “imposter syndrome” and it can be very supportive for people to have the opportunity to begin to share how they feel. However  the level of openness and disclosure, does  need to be managed and  group members are best to  disclose only what they are comfortable with and what they want others to know. It can be very reassuring to realise that others may have some of the feelings you have such as fear of judgement and feeling inadequate. Some of these personal issues can also be brought to a one-to-one session with a counsellor for support and help with clarifying what really is going on versus what they might subjectively feel is going on. This could mean that whilst someone may perceive they are being scrutinised, in reality they are aware of being very under confident in the work and so their perception is skewed.


Having identified the issues specifically related to these individuals we set to finding solutions. People feel much better when listened to and also are then more ready to participate in finding a solution. It can be so useful to support people to identify what is the culture, how do things function, what are the issues and what are the best ways to address them. The group think on this is  always better than the individual.

Most importantly, in my view, these discussions are opportunities to better communication and collboration within the team and a trained facilitator can ensure the “space” is held and that employees feel safe enough to speak about their experiences. Feedback on this piece of work is that staff felt the atmosphere had improved and also that they were better able to address further issues as they arose.






The Upside of Stress?

20160723_IRD001_1When travelling through the airport in the summer I happened to pick up the latest copy of The Economist and noticed an interesting article on stress and its effects. The article was interesting not only because it was particularly timely as travelling through European airports in the summer is inevitably stressful, but that the article was inviting me to reframe stress and welcome it !

Researchers in Stanford University  are now showing that if people are told that a certain amount of stress is healthy they can actually utilise it to their advantage . That how we feel about our stress or our relationship to it, is important in terms of its impact. Apparently, the impact on our bodies is less if we see stress as a challenge rather than a threat and we will manage the situation better if we change how we think about it. Essentially the study is suggesting we harness stress by looking at it as positive.

The article also argues that that stress is what we feel when something we care about is at stake and attempts to reassure us that it must be important if we are stressing.  Kelly McGonigal, a psychologist at Stanford University and the author of “The Upside of Stress”, helps people rethink stress by telling them that stress  is what we feel when something we care about is at stake. She invites  us to make two lists; one of things that stress us and another of things that matter to us.  She argues that these lists would not be dissimilar and that we need to realise that if we  eliminated all stress in our lives, our lives would not have much meaning!

This reframing may help but its also important to reduce stress and to recognise that it can be harmful over a long period and its important we don’t try to jolly ourselves along by thinking we can just see it as a challenge and utilise it to our advantage.

When I teach about stress to groups of employees, I always say that we need a certain amount of stress to keep us motivated and engaged and creative  and that of course, when this gets too much we feel overloaded and start to feel the ill effects of stress. Also thats its important to  recognise stress in ourselves and  know how we feel it in our bodies. We will then be better able to  mind ourselves when stressed and do what we can to reduce it, whether it be regular breaks, exercise, a mindfulness practice, letting-off steam etc.

Much is being asked of people in the workplace and cultures can be very fast paced and at times frantic. In my experience its important that we look after ourselves and learn to say No, or perhaps that you can  do whats been asked of you, but not immediately and then set a deadline for when it can be done. By doing this we are protecting ourselves and being realistic about when the work can be done. In the courses I run, I like to invite groups to look at the particular stresses in their workplaces and to identify ways they can address these. We also look at the internal stresses such as perfectionism, high expectations and being your own worst critic and how this might be managed to support us in being well, happy and effective at work and in life in general.

If you’ like to read the article in full check it out here  Economist article . It does provide an interesting slant in arguing that our relationship to stress is important and that generally we are only stressed about things that are important to us.  I think there may be some truth in this but its important to remember that we need to keep an eye to our own stress levels and mind ourselves as much as we can and be assertive and realistic about the demands placed on us.

Monica Haughey

Psychotherapist/ Trainer

E-mails -a “Pernicious phenomonen” that now needs to be curtailed?

At the recent CIPD conference in Dublin “Shaping engagement and well being to improve performance”, Prof Cary Cooper, University of Manchester spoke of the “pernicious”  nature  of e-mails in our lives. He strongly believes that the use of e-mails is negatively effecting both our work lives and our home lives.  In my  own training work in various companies, I too have found that the biggest stress people often mention is that of an overload of e-mails and that they are feeling swamped much of the time. People are finding that the volume of e-mails is adding an extra work load and this is interfering with them “getting on” with the work they need to do and so feeling stressed.

Many of us  are checking e-mails, at night, in the morning, at weekends and so on and they are  increasingly taking up more and more of our lives, and especially our so called “free time”. Time that previously was for rest and relaxation and time off from work.

Why is this?

The most obvious reason is that our phones allow us to have this easy access to our e-mails and most of us  have the settings turned on to receive e mails 24/7. Generally, we all have our phones with us at all times and so we will of course check the e- mails. Whilst we may have separate work phones -we do seem to  tend to check these too-just in case we miss anything!

Another issue that is now commonplace is that when someone sends an e-mail, there is a tendency to “cc” the e mail to other colleagues, a boss or anyone else we feel may be vaguely interested! This can  be because we wish others to see what we are doing and Cary Cooper  described this as  the “peacock effect”; look at me and what I am doing! Of course it may be necessary to include others in the e-mail, but perhaps we can be more restrained in this regard and report or tell our boss/colleagues or whoever may be interested  at the next meeting. Or we could of course ring, Skype or go talk to the person, rather than send another e-mail!

We all have a tendency to “over communicate” these days. We want everyone to know everything that is going on and this has become a cultural phenomenon, especially with the surge in the use of social media.  E-mails allow us to do communicate easily, and so we do -but they can be part of the over-communication phenomonen.

The effects?

In my experience in  delivering wellness & stress management workshops, consistently the issue of e-mails arises. People are often feeling inundated with e-mails and find that it is difficult to get on with the work they have to do because they are handling e-mails. This is time consuming, takes away from what they are actually trying to do and causes them to feel distracted in their work. In addition, e-mails are often checked in the evening and at weekends so there is less to do the following day and to not let them “build up”.

What can we do?

Start to develop better hygiene around e mails. To ask ourselves do we really need to send this e mail, could we talk or Skype instead or could the communication wait till the next forum when we do meet our colleagues. Perhaps offices need to have an e-mail policy, which outlines when they are to be used and how they are to be used efficiently with a view to reducing the volumes. We all need to become more aware of who we are e mailing, who we are including in the communication and really looking at what is necessary and what could wait till the next opportunity to meet or talk. One worker told me about his own approach which he described as the 3 D Model. This model, I understand he created himself but involves either deleting, delegating or dealing with the e-mail.



Any other tips about how to manage and utilise e mails all very welcome-let me know your views !


Monica Haughey July 2016



WIDENING OUR LENS-Towards a new model of Psychotherapy

WIDENING OUR LENS –Towards a new model of Psychotherapy


Monica Haughey


Irish society has undergone huge changes since the inception of the profession of psychotherapy and alongside this there have been developments in our understanding of how our minds work and there has been a growth in the areas of positive psychology and in our knowledge of the power of our thought process. This paper aims to identify some of these changes and considers how we might respond to them not only in our own practices but also in our training institutions.

Societal Changes

One central change has been the ongoing collapse and transformation of many of the old structures and institutions whether it be that of the church, the banks, schools, charitable bodies and government bodies. There have been scandals around sexual abuse, mishandling of money and in general the misuse of power has been challenged in our society and no stone has been left unturned. There have been enquiries, exposures and tribunals all seeking to challenge old methods and structures. For those who are interested in astrology, this is explained by the fact Pluto has been in Capricorn since 2008 and thus a huge and profound structural shift has been taking place.

Authority has been challenged and is no longer an automatic right. When I grew up in the 1960’s and 70’ in Ireland we didn’t challenge the “powers that be”, whether it was the church, teacher or your parents at home. I can remembering seeing my brothers who were altar boys get slapped on the altar and when I raised it at home, I was silenced and I quickly learned that I had said something considered to be inappropriate. There was no support for me to challenge this priest and my family were not going to cause trouble either . This was of course representative of society at the time and there were much more severe examples of the abuse of power in the church and throughout the wider society. The status quo was generally one of acceptance, resignation and a belief that really we had very little control over our own destiny. An indepth analysis of this culture is not within the remit of this paper, other than to say we had a history of colonialism and oppression by church and state.

Whilst we may still not have arrived at the pure, transparent and inclusive society we would like,and there are still ongoing changes, we are in my view more empowered in terms of people having a voice , finding ways to demonstrate their dissatisfaction and challenging authority and ongoing corruption. In schools, parents demand to be more involved, those working in institutions are acutely aware that they are in the public eye and need to be mindful of their actions and how they treat residents. Institutions seek to be more accountable and society is demanding this. Society has been and is being “cleaned out”. The new paradigm, is one of empowerment and participation and increasingly people are seeking to develop greater agency and control over their own lives. There is more openness to how mind, body and spirit are connected and I am continually amazed and encouraged how yoga classes, pilates classes and mindfulness classes are in such demand. People are breathing into their heart chakras, practising visualisation and thinking positive thoughts and really wanting support to effect change in themselves and to keep themselves well.


Developments in Neuro science

One of the key developments that has impacted on psychotherapy is the area of neuroscience as it allows us as therapists to provide an explanation of how therapy works. The field of neuroscience shows that all our thoughts, feelings, memories and sensations can be attributed to the neuron cells in our brain passing messages along synapses or neural pathways. We know that when neurons connect they form a bond and we tend to get into habits of passing messages along well used pathways. But these neuro pathways in the brain can be changed and that the brain is in fact a dynamic structure rather than a fixed one. Throughout our lifespan new neural pathways can be developed and new neurons can be built and our brains can rewire themselves and psychotherapy can effect this kind of change. Neuroscience also gives us an understanding of trauma and the role of therapy. Cozolino (2015), in his recent publication “Why Therapy Works” explains that many of our human issues which are brought to therapy have arisen because of how we process utilising different aspects of our brain. When our brain needs to react quickly to alert us to potential dangers, it is our fast primitive/reptilian brain which is called in to play rather than our slower part of the brain in the frontal cortex which helps us to plan reason and negotiate. Early painful childhood experiences, especially, can be difficult to integrate and are traumatic as we process much in early life through the our fast, reptilian brain and our frontal cortex which can plan, reason and negotiate social relationships only develops later. These early experiences can wreak havoc on our world view and make us feel unsafe. He argues that a good therapist can utilise the basic human need for connection, be a positive parental figure and help clients calm their over active primitive brain response, uncover unconscious patterns of thought and behaviour and alter the neural patterns to create healthier functioning. Neuroscience demonstrates that we can change and that our tendency to repeat behaviours can be modified. It is also interesting to note that it explains that we all have a predisposition to focusing on negative as our brains evolved with a requirement to be alert to what was fear inducing rather than situations causing us to feel relaxed and well.

Positive Psychology

Positive psychology makes a huge contribution to the field of wellness and can be described as the study of happiness. Seligman (2003), one of the founders of Positive psychology believes that happiness has to be more than the absence of misery and that psychotherapy needs a whole set of other skills that are about more than delving into our issues and releasing the pain. He believes that we need to learn and to teach the skills of being a happy and how to live well. Positive psychology focuses on wellness and provides us with concrete ideas , scientifically proven , to promote and maintain wellness. Seligman believes that whilst pain and suffering addressed in therapy is important we have gone too far. Acknowledging pain and suffering are important but we all still need to be able to find meaning, experience gratitude and be happy. Skills of being happy need to be grafted on to our in depth work with clients .

Key concepts in the area of positive psychology concern themselves with helping people maximise their potential, to find ways to engage with their highest strengths and also to seek to find ways to find meaning and to connect with a bigger purpose. Seligman has done extensive studies on how our strengths correlate with happiness and interestingly noted that our capacity to love and be loved have the highest statistical correlation with life satisfaction and happiness. He promotes expressing gratitude and caring for others as activities which will really make us feel better and reduce depression


There has been a huge surge in interest in mindfulness and there is widespread recognition of how powerful the practice can be whether as an everyday practice to support our well being or one specifically geared to help us manage pain, illness or a particular psychological issue. Mindfulness is now in the “ether” and people inherently seem to understand its value in this fast paced, post religious society we live in. Many psychotherapists further their training by studying mindfulness and are aware of the value for their clients in terms of increased sense of well being. Studies such as Davidson,R.J. et al (2004) demonstrate that those who regularily practice mindfulness are happier and more contented than average as it can enhance the area of the brain associated either happiness and compassion. Mindfulness can assist us in managing and living in greater harmony with our minds. We can learn to observe our minds and Buddhist teacher Yongey Rinpoche (2007) describes that the “mind is a kind of constantly evolving occurrence arising through the interaction of neurological habits and the unpredictable elements of immediate experience.” Mindfulness is an approach to helps us become aware of this and to develop a relationship with ourselves.

Consciousness creates reality

Our thoughts, awareness and intentions all influence not only how we perceive but also our reality. Physicists do now acknowledge that there is an observer effect and this was acknowledged in the 1930’s by pioneering physicist Sir James Jeans who wrote “the steam of knowledge is heading towards a non mechanical reality; the universe begins to look like more a great thought than like a great thing”. Many people are embracing this way of understanding reality and it has been popularised by the best selling film and book The Secret. Essentially they promote the view “be careful what you wish for”. That we are co-creators of our own reality and we have much more choice than we realise. If we practice affirmations and expecting good things to happen they will. That our thoughts are more powerful than we realise.

The biologist Bruce Lipton in his book The Biology of Belief (2005) demonstrates his then controversial discovery that the energy from our thoughts influences our very cells and that essentially our bodies can be changed as we re train our thinking. This concept is I believe a view that is being incorporated with very little effort into current main stream thinking. He believes we have been programmed to feel powerless especially in the area of health and spirituality and that we are entering a new era which is based on love rather than fear and that increasingly we can shape our lives to be more, healthy loving and fulfilled by taking control of our thought patterns .

What are the implications of all of these changes ?

In some sense psychotherapy fits beautifully into this new paradigm in that our core values embody personal responsibility, cultivating awareness and supporting the client take better charge of their own lives.

More Empowered Clients

In my view clients will and must be more empowered in coming to therapy. No longer do they come to a psychotherapist who is a “blank canvas” as it is likely that they have looked us up online and got some background. We need to ensure that the information they find is the information we wish them to find! It will be helpful if are able to articulate clearly what we do and how it has been shown to work? We will be competing with other therapies in that there are many people offering different forms of healing and so we will need to be able to be able to identify clearly what we are offering and perhaps what the benefits are likely we be.

We will also be competing with offers of instant healing online such as “Heal your inner critic” in just 10 minutes per day for 14 days, and podcasts and U tube videos on how to have a happier life.

As we have been steadily and at times dramatically clearing out old structures and outworn view points, it is likely that more clients will be preparing to move forward more and do less of looking back. This is clearly an optimistic and perhaps controversial statement and may not rest well with everyone, but as a society we have done a lot of healing and whilst there are still hurts and injustices it is important we can support clients in moving on and building health. This is not to say that there are still of course clients who will need indepth healing due to early traumas or help to deal with serious life issues, but that our context has changed and is changing.

Value of both short term and long term work

Neuroscience gives us a framework to understand the changes that can occur in our clients lives and can be used to support both term work and more longer term. Cozolino (2015) , is not categorical about the length of therapy nor the type of therapy and instead focuses on what we seek to achieve as therapists; a good relationship that clients can feel safe enough to let go misperceptions of themselves and try out new behaviours to assist them in healing.

Long term therapy may be vital for unconscious, deep seated issues but shorter term interventions can make an impact if there are issues that rely on explicit memories that are in our conscious mind. Whatever we repeatedly sense, feel and think will slowly sculpt our neural structure. Ivey and Zalaquett (2011) also argue that we can feel and think differently by focussing using our rational mind and they caution against focus on negative issues and re inforcing these brain circuits and instead suggest we use our rational, frontal cortex to focus on positives and strengths and that this can overcome the negative

Role of Positive Thinking

Writers such as Ward and Stokes (2014) argue that if we practice visualisations and expressing positive emotion we will eventually feel positive and will change the brain chemistry. Solution focussed therapy was developed by Steve De Shazer in the 1980’s and offers a helpful way for a client to really see and imagine their way forward in their lives. He suggests we use the “miracle question” which could be in the form of : “If a miracle were to happen and you woke up tomorrow morning and your life had been transformed in a positive way what would have happened, how would you feel?” This kind of enquiry encourages our client to become their own expert and begin to seeks ways to make their lives better themselves. Its not a new approach but could be helpful if we are seeking to offer a more short term focussed intervention.

The implications of the thesis that our thoughts create our reality are far reaching and the extent to which we can integrate this into our work with clients would depend on both the client and therapist.

Energy Work

Techniques such as “tapping” that work directly with energy are already being practiced by some psychotherapists in their work with clients. This is a technique that is based on the principles of ancient acupressure and modern psychology and in a very practical way is used to heal any negative emotions or physical pain. The method used is that of tapping with your fingertips on specific meridian points of your body, including your hands, temples, forehead, etc., while focusing on negative emotions or physical sensations. Advocates argue that when you combine this technique, with vocally speaking affirmations and positive words, our nervous system can become calmer and our bodies can be brought back to balance. David Feinsten, a well recognised clinical psychologist from the John Hopkins University School of Medicine has done extensive research on how the process works and how our nervous sytem can be de activated and undesired responses can be uncoupled from the triggers. providing you with greater ease and freedom to live your life more effectively and joyfully. He argues that one of the strengths of this approach is that is fast and precise and that “right there in the moment, the entire landscape of the brain is changing around the issue that the person is thinking about.”



Whilst some clients may be on anti depressants or some form of medication prescribed by their medical practitioner, there is an increasing awareness of other “complementary” healing interventions. One such approach is homeopathy and this is working at an energetic level and can very safely and effectively support our work as psychotherapists. Homeopathy views illness as something which ‘arises’ when the individual is out of balance on either a physical, mental, emotional or spiritual level. Homeopathy is a very deep medicine which can effect us on these different levels and can be used effectively in conjunction with psychotherapy and there already psychotherapists offering this in addition to their practice of psychotherapy.

Eco Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy may embrace broad based therapists such as those who practice eco psychotherapy and who have a strong belief in the healing power of nature. Theodore Roszak “Other therapies seek to heal the alienation between person and person, person and family, person and society. Ecopsychology seeks to heal the more fundamental alienation between the recently created urban psyche and the age-old natural environment”. Theodore Roszak Dublin based David Staunton describes himself as an eco psychotherapist and his approach is to include, explore and restore the human-to-nature connection as well as the human-to-human relationship. He meets clients initially indoors but if they wish will then subsequently meet them outdoors.





As I have already discussed, we practice in a society that is rapidly changing. Our clients are and will be increasingly seeking out a variety of approaches to feeling well. We need to ensure our professionalism and standards of practice in psychotherapy. However, there are a myriad of influences on clients wellness. The positive psychology movement argues that by expressing gratitude and caring for others we can feel better. But the be careful what you wish for approach, espoused by thinkers such as those in The Secret, take this further in that the underlying belief is that we can change our external reality with our thoughts. We can’t be seen to be being woolly or esoteric in our approaches. Alongside this, in my view clients are increasingly aware that their thoughts can change their reality. At the moment, society does seem ready to accept the positive psychology contributions around how we can improve our well being. However, the concept that we can change our external environment may not still be a fully credible proposal for therapy to embrace. Does our profession need to maintain a conservatism to ensure credibility ?


The therapeutic relationship has always been of paramount importance and in my view will continue to be. In particular, therapist qualities of authenticity, transparency and courage as always will continue to be highly prized. However, I do believe its important we seek to acknowledge and support our clients in their strengths and in moving forward in their lives.


In my own practice, I enquire at the outset whether clients wishes to engage in short term or longer term work with me. I am clear that both have a role. I also am very open to other aspects of the clients well-being such as exercise, diet and whether they may benefit from practices to support them such as yoga or mindfulness. Generally they are bringing this up in our conversations. I am interested in other inverventions to support energetic shifts such as homeopathy and in my own direct experience have found this to be a very helpful addition to the psychotherapy process.



It is an exciting time for psychotherapy. Our values of empowerment and client self determination fit beautifully within this new paradigm in society but we must ensure we stay open to societal changes in building wellness and seek to incorporate these changes into our practices.



Monica Haughey March 2016




Byrne, Rhonda “The Secret”   Atria Books 2006

Cozolino, Louis “Why Therapy Works- Using Our Minds To Change Our Brains “ W.W. Norton & Co. (2015)

Davidson, R.J et al “Alterations in Brain and immune function produced by Mindfulness Meditation” Psychometric Medicine 65(2004) 564-70 In Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche (2007) “The Joy of living, Unlocking the Secret and Science of Happiness

Jeans, James The Mysterious Universe 1930

Feinsten, David “The Promise of Energy Psychology” 2005

Lipton, Bruce “The Biology of Belief” Hayhouse Press 2005

Roszak, Theodore “The Voice of the Earth: An exploration of Ecopsychology” 2001

Seligman Martin E.P. “Authentic Happiness” Nicholas Brealey Publishing 2003

Staunton , David

Ivey, Allen E. and Zalaquett , Carlos P. in Journal for Social Action in Counselling and Psychology Spring 2011

Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche “The Joy of living, unlocking the Secret and Science of Happiness”. Bantam books 2007

Ward,K. and Stokes, H. “The Happy Map­ – your road map to the habit of happiness” Bonsai Press 2014


De Shazer, Steve “ Clues; Investigating Solutions in Brief Therapy”. W.W. Norton & Co 1988


Widening our Lens – towards a new model of psychotherapy

I am delighted to be speaking at the IAHIP Conference 2016 on Friday, 4th March.

A synopsis of my workshop is below and to read the full paper have a look here. All comments very welcome as I’d love to open up the debate. Thank you.

Traditionally humanistic psychotherapy has valued the importance of the therapeutic relationship and the healing that can occur through this. However, we now have an opportunity to widen our approach to psychotherapy and look at how our practice might change in response to and in tandem with, the wider societal changes. We might also have a part to play in shaping these new developments and co-creating our new society.

In this workshop I will:

  1. Outline what I see as a paradigm shift in society in that we have seen a collapse of old structures such as the church, banks and political systems. Corruption and automatic respect for the old order is less prevalent and people are now more aware of their own authority and less likely to automatically respect authority, as respect now has to be earned.
  1. Look at influences on our practices; some of these include:
    1. Short term “psychotherapy” /coaching
    2. Positive psychology and “New age” ideas such as the “law of attraction”
    3. Holistic health – everything is connected…physical/mental/emotional/spiritual
    4. Neuro science – work of Daniel Siegel
    5. Energy medicine – work of Bruce Lipton
    6. Eco -psychotherapy – Us and the environment- are we separate?
  2. Consider how this might impact on our work?

Clients will want to know clearly what we offer and how long it will take.

We might consider how our inputs might work in co-operation with other health practitioners and these practitioners may be from the “alternative health field”.

We might take our work out of the room into nature and this may be an important development for some clients.

Conference Details

Conference Timetable

The conference committee are very happy to announce that preparations for the 2016 IAHIP conference are well underway. Please click on: Conference Timetable, to see the layout of the day. Registration is from 8.30 a.m. to 9.30 a.m., during which time you will be required to sign up for the particular workshop / paper presentation you wish to attend.  We have listed the abstracts below for your attention.

Workshop & paper presentations

Please click here for a list of the workshop / paper presentations, and the times they will be presented.


Monica helped me get clarity on my situation and  to get the support I needed to address my difficulties.

I also found it helped me move on in my life and to believe in myself more!”



Meeting with Monica supported me to deal with a range of issues, including past experiences and current struggles. I found her to be a really skillful counsellor and I felt I could be honest and open in her presence.

She enabled me to not only approach and cope with some quite painful situations and feelings, but also to explore what I wanted for my future and to start taking steps towards that. I always felt an equal in the counselling process, which I really appreciated and also welcomed her humour and her holistic approach to life. Sandra

A New Year – A new start?


UnknownAt this time between Christmas and New Year, some of us may be regretting that we ate too much or drank too much or perhaps just generally that things “were too much.”

This time of year is generally a time when we do tend to err on the side of over indulging and we do feel things very intensely .

Now there is a bit of respite before the New Year festivities let’s look at how we can try and restore some balance in our lives. This may mean getting out for walks and meeting friends and being sociable in this way. It’s also a time to enjoy warming soups and casseroles and go back to simpler foods. This is a good way to go, especially if you haven’t been to the shops recently and perhaps don’t feel inclined either !

This idea of restoring balance led me to think about the dreaded New Year resolutions where we can tend to try to whip ourselves into taking on all kinds of new regimes. Whether it be taking up running, deciding we have to lose weight or really become a totally different kind of person. Instead I prefer to gradually introduce some new good habits such as having a cup of warm water with lemon first thing in the morning. I have heard that if we drink enough of this we no longer feel like coffee . This hasn’t happened for me yet but I do feel better for starting the day with a drink which definitely feels like its good for me and that it gives me systems a cleanse. Continue reading…

Empowered Living – Becoming our own expert in our health

The book “Chicken Soup For The Soul” by Canfield and Hansen became a New York Times  best seller in the 1990’s and was an inspirational book for many. For those who haven’t read it, it is a compilation of stories about people’s lives and the stories are all really positive and uplifting. The book wasn’t about food or religion but the title captures how  food and especially chicken soup can be really heart warming and nourishing and indeed soulful.

For me, health is a fascinating and engaging subject and as I have developed my psychotherapy practice over the years my lens has got wider and I have become very aware of how there are so many factors affecting my clients’ sense of health and well- being.

As  a psychotherapist, I recognise how factors such as the nature of our early attachments,  trauma, bereavements, relationship difficulties etc can all effect how we feel about  ourselves and how we are in relation to others. There are of course many other factors effecting our sense of well being, it is now widely  recognised that factors such as whether we take exercise, get time in nature, feel connected to others and have a sense of being in community, have the opportunity to be creative and whether we eat good food, especially food that suits their bodies, are all vitally important in terms of our capacity to feel well in ourselves.

This awareness of the many facets of health, has led me to  recently set up a new initiative called the Good Food Initiative and is concerned with the role of food in  how we can manage our health generally and  stay well. I am not a nutritionist, nor do I wish to be, I am a psychotherapist who understands that ultimately we all need to take responsibility for ourselves, and whilst  at different times or stages, we may need help in coping with past issues or patterns that effect our lives, it is also important  that we  get to know and understand ourselves as best we can and ultimately manage our own health in the broadest sense. In my work with clients I not only assist them with past issues which may still be impacting on their lives but also seek to support my clients in developing greater self awareness and in developing an awareness that there are always  choices we  can make in our lives, no matter “how bad” things are or seem. Ultimately I see the work as about supporting people to feel more empowered in their lives. The Good Food Initiatve is concerned with individuals and communities becoming more empowered around their  food and so their health and well being. Taking more control of the food we eat, where it is sourced, how to prepare it and enjoying the deep but simple pleasure of eating together is, in my view  of huge importance in not only feeling more empowered but also in terms of nourishing us, body and soul and  in  keeping us well.


As someone who has been interested in good food for a long time, particularly since I became a parent, I have realised that there is a lot of information about food but that its not particularly consistent. There is always new research but often what is being presented contradicts other researchers. I attended a talk recently on food and its link to mood and the  nutritionist who presented argued that animal protein is of great value in  alleviating depression. ( see Other food writers and nutritionists have warned us that meat, especially red meat, isn’t good for our health and some say it can lead to cancer. I have often read contradictory evidence that   butter, eggs, dairy etc etc are either  good for us or not so good for  us!  The research needs to isolate factors so that something can be proven, but humans are so multi factorial that really I think research cannot help us with our own individual predicaments, in that we each have a particular and unique body, and our health is determined by many things including diet, background, genetics, attitude etc and that ultimately the old adage “Know thyself” is really what’s important. For some raw food and vegetarian diet may well suit, but not everyone. I know personally I feel more inclined towards  warming casseroles and soups this time of year, irrespective of the alleged health benefits of juices and smoothies. I think what is good for our health is complex and depends on time of year, our bodily constitution, stress in our lives, how we eat, the atmosphere in which we eat etc etc. In my book “the secret of the mince pies”, a tribute to my late mother, I argued that whilst she used white bread and  refined sugar in her cooking that it was her love that made whatever she cooked healthy!

So what I am coming to believe is that we need to develop our own expertise and get to know our own bodies and that of our children’s and discover what suits us and them. To become more empowered about our health. If we became more empowered about maintaining our health, we would feel better, have less need to rely on outside interventions such as medical doctors and our hospitals would not be bursting at the seams as they seem to be currently. Our health service could then be used to treat those who have serious medical conditions but also to help us stay well. ideally our health service could shift from treating disease to supporting health.

The Good Food Initiative is about supporting people  around sourcing good quality food and learning how it can help maintain their health. It is also concerned with promoting good food and the pleasure of cooking good, healthy food, enjoying  food and especially the coming together with family and friends around food. My aspiration is that more of us can  become experts in our own health and learn ways to keep ourselves and families well, through finding what suits our own individual situations . I see psychotherapy and counselling as  also offering us an opportunity to grow towards health  to become more self aware  and heal past issues that may be effecting us in our lives and ultimately feel better and also more empowered in our lives.

The word psychotherapist, derives from the Greek language and literally means soul attendant  and many writers such as Thomas Moore (1992) writes about the focus of therapy being about the impoverished soul. Jung described neurosis as “the suffering of a soul that has not found meaning” Stevens 1994

So this is where the chicken soup comes in, especially if its good for the soul! If it doesn’t help then find a good therapist as both are helpful for soul nurturing!




Managing our own brain…Deepak Chopra explains

This article reminds us that really we can shape our experience of our own lives much more than we often realise . All the neuroscience points to the fact that if become more aware of how we think and learn to re -program our brains we are then  better able to negotiate our lives happily and deal with things that come up in the way we choose!  Have a look at this article which describes this .

The brain hasn’t ever been unimportant, but it has risen to new heights in an age where neuroscience and genetics are sharply focused on it. We are gaining so much insight into brain processes that it’s easy to assume that the brain runs our lives. The truth is that each of us is the user of our brain, and as with any mechanism, the user’s intention makes all the difference.

There’s no need to get mired in the contentious argument over whether the brain is the mind or a physical representation of the mind. Without a doubt every person gives their brain input every day, and in return, the brain responds. In other words, you and your brain are related in a feedback loop. This feedback loop is so sensitive that it responds to every moment of life, including every experience, thought, feeling, and sensation you’ve ever had.


Which leads to a deep question. Are you in charge of the feedback or is it in charge of you? If you let your embedded memories and old habits have their own way, you can’t be in charge. Instead, you will automatically react to a wide host of new experiences as if they were the shadow of old ones. This results in a state I call stuckness, where the most precious ability to possess – the ability of free choice – has been taken away from you.


When you are stuck, the following results build up over time:

  • You act thoughtlessly.
  • You become blind to new input.
  • You accept old output without question.
  • Your brain keeps imprinting its old wiring deeper and deeper.
  • You lose self-awareness.


Getting stuck is the worst thing your brain can do to you, and vice versa. The ultimate responsibility rests upon you, because you are meant to be the user of your brain, not the other way around. When a person isn’t stuck, there is a conscious attempt, year in and year out, to renew the feedback loop. To do this, the following pointers will help:


  • Question your ingrained beliefs, prejudices, and assumptions.
  • Keep lines of communication open with others.
  • Encourage opinions from a wide circle of people.
  • Respect and understand views that are the opposite of yours.
  • Be aware of your negative emotions and work on them without blaming others.
  • Value self-awareness and work to expand your awareness.
  • Look upon your life as a continuing process of evolution.

None of this is new advice; it goes back thousands of years in the world’s wisdom traditions. The only new twist is that modern people want to see physical evidence before they accept the validity of what used to be called wisdom, and now advanced brain research has provided it. There’s no neurological term for stuckness, yet it is well established that the brain has natural plasticity – that is, it’s highly adaptive and sensitive to input from body, mind, and surroundings.


In a very real sense, you are creating the brain you are going to live with in the future, according to how you respond to life today. Stuckness represents a state of inertia; it says that you don’t value your personal growth as much as you should. The fact that the brain is crucial to a person’s evolution seems obvious, but in the past an inability to change was blamed on sin, laziness, lack of intellect, and genetic programming. In reality, volition – the ability to carry through the change you want to achieve – plays a major role. When we misuse the brain, every experience suffers, and that includes spiritual experience, which like every other kind depends on the brain to register it. No saint ever saw angels without the participation of the visual cortex.



Positive Psychology -a talk by Jolanta Burke Psychologist

Recently I had the opportunity to attend a lecture at PCI college as part of Mental Health week. The talk was by a psychologist Jolanta Burke (www.Jolanta who is a hugely enthusistic speaker and a firm believer in the value of taking a positive approach to our mental health . She believes that problems and negativity have dominated our lives for too long and that Continue reading…

The Winner Effect-Interview with Prof. Ian Robertson on the neuroscience of power

On Being  Powerful  –      Newstalk Interview 14th May 2013- 

Professor Ian Robertson , Professor of Psychology at Trinity College Dublin has just published a book  “The Winner Effect” and was on Newstalk Breakfast Show this morning.

He has studied the neuroscience of success and failure, and he says that power increases testosterone in both men and women and this improves mental functioning as it creates dopamine in our brains. Continue reading…

New Centre in West Cork

Our Centre of Active Empowerment

My colleague and friend Gill Riordan who is now living in West Cork is involved in opening a new centre in Skibbereen. The centre will be a place where people can come together in different ways to support each other in their growth and development. As a psychotherapist I think its fascinating and inspiring to see that there are new models emerging which are supporting people. Gill is a psychotherapist and visionary in terms of adapting her work to meet new needs as we move through 2103. This is an extract from her blog describing the centre.

My vision is to have a centre of learning and healing where people can come together to seek what they are looking for, express the richness within them and learn new ways of thinking.  It does take consistent effort and practice to move out of old, limiting, stuck patterns of thinking and behaving and even to know that you are living out of old and limiting beliefs and what these are.

We have a culture that keeps creating sickness and dependency and victim consciousness.  We need more opportunities for people to learn to think about things and to connect with the wisdom within.

We need to think of these times in terms of the opportunity they are bringing to us rather than to feel powerless and just in a state of waiting for things to change.

Everyone has an important contribution to make in our world, we all have a part to play.  

Our centre will open shortly at 4, North Street, Skibbereen. Co. Cork.
Come and join us and find out more.
Contact me at  or through my website  or mobile 087 4197330

2013 – A Time Of Huge Change… Challenge or opportunity ?

My friends in the world of astrology tell me that there are reasons why our structures are collapsing and our worlds are not as we knew them. They say that understanding the planetary alignments can help us to comprehend the bigger meaning behind these changes. Changes which we have in fact all co-created and that this is a time of ripening and new beginnings.

Continue reading…

The Journey of Parenting

The Transformative Journey of Parenthood.

As a parent and psychotherapist I am continually reminded that being a parent is a very challenging and demanding role. It is also very fulfilling, joyful and satisfying. Issues can arise in many aspects of the role and I come across this in both my home life and my working life; whether we are struggling to adapt to our children at different stages of their development, or trying to juggle child care, work outside the home and family  life. We also make choices consciously or unconsciously about our parenting styles and sometimes we work out of our own childhood experiences or choose to parent in a way that is distinctly different from the experience we ourselves had as children.

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